When we see the word romance – particularly in literature, we think of its modern usage – a love story but in actuality – just like our fictional heroes and heroines – there’s a rather long and winding journey before the word gets to its happily ever after.
As we know from the term ‘romance languages’ – Spanish, Italian and French – romance’s origins begin with the Romans (although there is a reason why famous literary lovers Don Juan, Casanova and Candide keep their end up, so to speak...)
Originally the term romance referred not the contents of a book, but rather its form. These original romances were epic adventures full of daring deeds and heroism.
From the 1300s, romance meant to recite a narrative from the Old French romancier, which meant to translate into French. Prior to that, it had come from romanicus, meaning of the Roman style.
These narratives, although written were often performed. Can you imagine everyone gathered around the flicking firelight while one of the household recited the passages from Beowulf or the story of King Arthur? From there we get to chivalric romances - noble knights imbued, with honour, fulfilled their quest and returned to claim the hand of the beautiful maiden. The French particularly specialised in tales of courtly love.
This brings us to the era of Shakespeare where these chivalric romance became a little more like the romances we know today (his late plays Pericles, Cymbeline and The Tempest are considered romances).
From the 1660s through to the early 19th century romance stories were frequently adventures, which had a love story as a key, but not the only element. Jane Austen is considered a pioneer of the romance novel as we know it, but really, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the modern romance novel in which focuses on the developing romantic relationship between our hero and heroine truly flourished.
So for me it was fun to go back to the origins of romance – the Romans – for Dark Heart which also pays tribute to those other forms of romance, the epic adventure, the chivalrous hero, the courtly love – and of course the happily ever after.
Dark Heart is out on April 28.
Dark Heart Blurb
Can love survive a dark heart?
A series of ritual murders of young boys recalls memories of Rome’s most wicked Emperor. Magistrate Marcus Cornelius Drusus has discovered the cult extends to the very heart of Roman society.
Despite his personal wealth and authority, Marcus is a slave to his past – conflicted by his status as an adopted son, bitterly betrayed by his wife and forced to give up his child.
Kyna knows all about betrayal. Sold into slavery by her husband to pay a gambling debt, she found herself in Rome, far from her home in Britannia. Bought by a doctor, she is taught his trade and is about to gain her freedom when her mentor is murdered by the cult.
When the same group make an attempt on her life, Kyna is forced to give up her freedom and accept Marcus’s protection. With no one to trust but each other, mutual attraction ignites into passion but how far will Marcus go for vengeance when he learns the cult’s next victim is his son?
Can the woman who is free in her heart heal the man who is a slave in his?